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vILLIERS (GEORGE) 2nd Duke of Buckingham.
Memorably satirised by Dryden in 'Absalom and Achitophel' as Zimri
In the first rank of these did Zimri stand;
A man so various that he seemed to be
Not one, but all mankind's epitome;
Stiff in opinions, always in the wrong,
Was everything by starts and nothing long;
But in the course of one revolving moon
Was chymist, fiddler, statesman and buffoon;
Then all for women, painting, rhyming, drinking,
Besides then thousand freaks that died in thinking.
Blest madman, who could every hour employ
With something new to wish or to enjoy;
Railing and praising were his usual themes,
And both, to show his judgment, in extremes:
So over violent or over civil
That every man with him was God or Devil.
In squandering wealth was his peculiar art;
Nothing went unrewarded but desert.
Beggared by fools whom still he found too late,
He had his jest, and they had his estate.
He laughed himself from Court; then sought relief
By forming parties, but could ne'er be chief;
For spite of him, the weight of business fell
On Absalom and wise Achitophel;
Thus wicked but in will, of means bereft,
He left not faction, but of that was left.
From the National Portrait Gallery’s website (where you can see Buckingham’s picture): "George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (1628-1687), Statesman and dramatist. The son of James I’s favourite, Buckingham fought for the royalist side during the Civil War and was exiled, but he later returned to England and married the daughter of the parliamentarian General Fairfax, in the hope of regaining his lands. At the Restoration he was favoured by Charles II, helped to engineer the downfall of Clarendon and became a member of the Cabal. Famous for his intrigues and immorality, he seduced the Countess of Shrewsbury and killed her husband in a duel in 1668. Described as 'one of the worst men alive', he was eventually dismissed from office in 1674. He wrote a number of witty satirical comedies."
The story goes that the Countess of Shrewsbury held her lover’s horse while Buckingham killed Shrewsbury in the duel.
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George Villiers, 2nd Duke of Buckingham (January 10, 1628 - April 16, 1687), English statesman, son of the 1st Duke of the second creation (1623) of that title. for some background: This was the guy at the coronacion:
From Grammont's footnotes
George Villiers, the second Duke of Buckingham, was born 30th January, 1627. Lord Orford observes, "When this extraordinary man, with the figure and genius of Alcibiades, could equally charm the presbyterian Fairfax and the dissolute Charles; when he alike ridiculed that witty king and his solemn chancellor; when he plotted the ruin of his country with a cabal of bad ministers, or, equally unprincipled, supported its cause with bad patriots,-- one laments that such parts should have been devoid of every virtue; but when Alcibiades turns chemist; when he is a real bubble and a visionary miser; when ambition is but a frolic; when the worst designs are for the foolishest ends,-- contempt extinguishes all reflection on his character.
"The portrait of this duke has been drawn by four masterly hands. Burnet has hewn it out with his rough chisel; Count Hamilton touched it with that slight delicacy that finishes while it seems but to sketch; Dry-den catched the living likeness; Pope completed the historical resemblance." -- Royal and Noble Authors, vol. ii. p. 78.
Of these four portraits, the second is in the text; the other three will complete the character of this extraordinary nobleman.
Bishop Burnet says, he "was a man of noble presence. He had a great liveliness of wit, and a peculiar faculty of turning all things into ridicule, with bold figures, and natural descriptions. He had no sort of literature, only he was drawn into chymistry; and for some years he thought he was very near the finding the philosopher's stone, which had the effect that attends on all such men as he was, when they are drawn in, to lay out for it. He had no principles of religion, virtue, or friendship; pleasure, frolic, or extravagant diversion was all that he laid to heart. He was true to nothing; for he was not true to himself. He had no steadiness nor conduct; he could keep no secret, nor execute any design without spoiling it. He could never fix his thoughts, nor govern his estate, though then the greatest in England. He was bred about the king, and for many years he had a great ascendant over him; but he spake of him to all persons with that contempt, that at last he drew a lasting disgrace upon himself. And he at length ruined both body and mind, fortune and reputation equally. The madness of vice appeared in his person in very eminent instances; since at last he became contemptible and poor, sickly, and sunk in his parts, as well as in all other respects; so that his conversation was as much avoided as ever it had been courted." -- Burnet's Own Times, vol. i. p. 137.
Pope describes the last scene of this nobleman's life in these lines:--
"In the worst inn's worst room, with mat half hung,
The floors of plaster, and the walls of dung,
On once a flock-bed, but repair'd with straw,
With tape-tied curtains, never meant to draw;
The George and Garter dangling from that bed,
Where tawdry yellow strove with dirty red,
Great Villiers lies: -- alas ! how chang'd from him,
That life of pleasure, and that soul of whim!
Gallant and gay, in Clieveden's proud alcove,
The bower of wanton Shrewsbury and love;
Or, just as gay, at council, in a ring
Of mimic'd statesmen, and their merry king.
No wit, to flatter, left of all his store!
No fool to laugh at, which he valued more.
There, victor of his health, of fortune, friends,
And fame, this lord of useless thousand ends."
Moral Essays, Epist. iii. 1. 299.
He died 16th April, 1688, at the house of a tenant, at Kirby Moorside, near Helmsly, in Yorkshire, aged 61 years, and was buried in Westminster-abbey.
Though this note is already long, the reader will hardly complain at an extension of it, by the addition of one more character of this licentious nobleman, written by the able pen of the author of Hudibras. "The Duke of Bucks is one that has studied the whole body of vice. His parts are disproportionate to the whole, and, like a monster, he has more of some, and less of others, than he should have. He has pulled down all that nature raised in him, and built himself up again after a model of his own. He has dammed up all those lights that nature made into the noblest prospects of the world, and opened other little blind loop-holes backward, by turning day into night, and night into day. His appetite to his pleasures is diseased and crazy, like the pica in a woman, that longs to eat that which was never made for food, or a girl in the green sickness, that eats chalk and mortar. Perpetual surfeits of pleasure have filled his mind with bad and vicious humours (as well as his body with a nursery of diseases), which makes him affect new and extravagant ways, as being sick and tired with the old. Continual wine, women, and music, put false values upon things, which, by custom, become habitual, and debauch his understanding so, that he retains no right notion nor sense of things. And as the same dose of the same physic has no operation on those that are much used to it, so his pleasures require a larger proportion of excess and variety, to render him sensible of them. He rises, eats, and goes to bed by the Julian account, long after all others that go by the new style, and keeps the same hours with owls and the antipodes. He is a great observer of the Tartar customs, and never eats till the great cham, having dined, makes proclamation that all the world may go to dinner. He does not dwell in his house, but haunts it like an evil spirit, that walks all night, to disturb the family, and never appears by day. He lives perpetually benighted, runs out of his life, and loses his time as men do their ways in the dark: and as blind men are led by their dogs, so is he governed by some mean servant or other, that relates to his pleasures. He is as inconstant as the moon which he lives under; and although he does nothing but advise with his pillow all day, he is as great a stranger to himself as he is to the rest of the world. His mind entertains all things very freely that come and go, but, like guests and strangers, they are not welcome if they stay long. This lays him open to all cheats, quacks, and impostors, who apply to every particular humour while it lasts, and afterwards vanish. Thus, with St. Paul, though in a different sense, he dies daily, and only lives in the night. He deforms nature, while he intends to adorn her, like Indians that hang jewels in their lips and noses. His ears are perpetually drilled with a fiddlestick. He endures pleasures with less patience than other men do their pains." -- Butler's Posthumous Works, vol. ii. p. 72.
From Grammont's footnotes for above annotation see note 89
George Villiers, duke of Buckingham, a man of great wit and humour, and of the most whimsical caprice, was the admiration and the jest of the reign of Charles the Second. He was the alchymist and the philosopher; the fiddler and the poet; the mimic and the statesman. How shall I sketch the portrait of one who had such a variety of faces, or draw him in miniature who was of so great, and at the same time of so little a character? He has left us a specimen of his admirable wit in his "Rehearsal" which is a creation of his own, and had a considerable effect in reforming the stage. Ob. April 16, 1687, Æt. 60.
---A Biographical History of England. J. Granger, 1779.
VILLIERS, GEORGE, second Duke of Buckingham (1628-1687), son of George Villiers, first duke of Buckingham; succeeded, August 1628; brought up with Charles I's children; studied at Trinity College, Cambridge; M.A., 1642; joined Charles I in Oxford, winter, 1643; served under Rupert, 1643; travelled in Italy; received back his sequestered estates, on the plea of youth, 1647; joined the Surrey insurgente, was routed at St. Neots, and fled to Holland, 1648; his estates definitely confiscated, 1651; admitted privy councillor, 1650; urged conciliation of the presbyterians; accompanied Charles II to Scotland, 1650, and to Worcester, 1651; escaped to Holland, 1651; tried to make peace with parliament, 1652 and 1653; was in disgrace with the queen-mother, 1652, with Charles II, 1654, and Clarendon, 1656; returned to England, 1657; married Fairfax's daughter, 1657; prisoner in tbe Tower of London, 1658-9; recovered estates at the Restoration; gentleman of the bedchamber, 1660-7; lord-lieutenant of the West Riding, 1661-7; privy councillor, 1662-7; intrigued against Clarendon, 1663-7; served at sea against the Dutch, 1665; influential member of the 'Cabal' administration, 1667-9; advocated alliance with France and toleration at home; seduced the Countess of Shrewsbury and mortally wounded the earl in a duel, January 1668, but was pardoned, February; master of the horse, by purchase, July 1668; at feud with York and with Ormonde; displaced by Arlington in Charles II's confidence and kept ignorant of tbe private negotiations with Louis, April 1669, and the secret treaty of Dover, May 1670; envoy to Paris, July 1670, to the Prince of Orange, and to Paris, June 1672; lieutenant-general, May 1673; quarrelled openly with Arlington, 1673, whom Charles supported; being attacked by the Lords for the Shrewsbury scandal, and by the Commons for the French treaty, January 1674, was dismissed from his offices; joined the country party; opposed tbe non-resistance oath, and moved a bill to relieve protestant dissenters, 1675; prisoner in the Tower of London, 1677; intrigued against Charlas II getting supplies, 1678-9, and laboured to have a whig parliament; disapproved of the Exclusion Bill, 1680-1; the Zimri of Dryden's 'Absalom and Achitophel,' 1681; restored to court favour, 1683; published pamphlets in favour of toleration, 1685; lived in retirement in Yorkshire, 1686. He had dabbled in chemistry, and spent much in building and laying out gardens. He wrote verses, satires, and some pieces for the stage, particularly 'The Rehearsal,' brought out 1671, ridiculing contemporary dramatists. His 'Miscellaneous Works' were first collected, 1704-5.
---Dictionary of National Biography: Index and Epitome. S. Lee, 1906.
Chart showing the number of references in each month of the diary’s entries.